Leon Vitali was film director Stanley Kubrick’s loyal right hand man.

Originally an actor, he was cast in Kubrick’s movie Barry Lyndon, but found himself drawn in by Kubrick’s obsessive and perfectionist methods and vision. He gave up his acting career to dedicate himself completely to Kubrick’s work until the director’s death in 1999.

The intriguing thing about Leon’s story is the breadth of the work that he took on in his role. ‘Assistant’ just doesn’t cover it. He was, variously, actor, acting coach, researcher, technician, runner and cat-litter-tray-cleaner (really).

When asked what his job was, he would always reply ‘I am a filmworker.’ Nothing else really covered the breadth of work he did. Kubrick was a demanding person to work for, so Vitali would often find himself learning entirely new skills under considerable pressure. From the outside, the two men’s relationship seems dysfunctional, but Vitali claims that he wouldn’t change one thing about his career.

This is a wonderful example of how working as a very broad generalist can be challenging and fulfilling, provided that you are committed to serving the wider vision that binds all the various aspects of your work together. You would have to be comfortable being in an almost constant state of making-it-up-as-you-go, but having to deliver the goods anyway.

Not so different from being a founder or very early employee at a startup…

All the best,

– Jim

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